Health & Safety
What this section aims to do:
This policy will offer guidance to Companies (Management and staff) for the procedures in place to deal with a significant communicable disease outbreak, e.g. Pandemic Flu (Coronavirus, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS), Avian Flu, Swine Flu) outbreak etc. with effective infection control measures.
There is always some concern over some terms used in the press, such as epidemic and pandemic, it should be noted that the main difference between an ‘Epidemic’ and ‘Pandemic’ is as follows:
Is a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.
The same as an Epidemic but has crossed and international border (major city, country or continent).
This section is in place to provide personnel with clear guidance on the actions they must take in order to prevent any form of infection within the work-place especially those described below.
A Company’s Health & Safety Management System or Food Health & Safety Management System with all its ancillary policies and procedures attached to it, should clearly state controls for normal activities by all employees who regularly work within the business.
Management is required to ensure that the following is managed on site to reduce the risk of ‘pandemic flu’ or communicable diseases to an acceptable level:
Hand washing procedure
Exclusion Policy for illnessInstruction, information, training and supervision for the team on site on the above
Team members shall follow the instruction of their managers to ensure effective handwashing and cleaning and disinfection routines in the business.
In the event of a possible outbreak at your company, contact the company’s H&S Advisor or the Operations Manager/Director to advise on the issue.
Companies should constantly update their procedures to reflect the situation to protect their employees, which include staff, management and supervisory levels and ensure that they are all aware of their responsibilities in the event of a local or national communicable disease outbreak.
One such situation would be in the event of a ‘pandemic’ flu outbreak or report. Due to the potential severity such a situation can bring about, companies need to ensure that the least amount of harm is suffered by their staff (customers/clients/contractors/visitors) that they come into contact with. Companies should ensure that the least amount of disruption is suffered in order for them to honour their service requirements in a safe manner.
For these two main reasons, companies should draft and review their policies and procedures to ensure all reasonably practicable precautions are taken.In order to secure full compliance, companies should also ensure that these policies and procedures are communicated to all employees and that they are properly understood (as required). Each responsible person such as manager or supervisor etc. will explain these procedures in a way that is understood by all employees (especially when English is their second language).Protection of all staff and customers/visitors etc. should be companies’ prime responsibility. It will ensure the health and safety of their staff by firstly reducing the risk of developing ‘pandemic’ flu’. This shall be done as follows:
Operations keeping abreast of government and medical advice and communicating this to management and team members as required.
Updating contact details of team members and circulating emergency contact details of key members of the business (at present follow the operational chain).
Carrying out a risk assessment of the specific risk in the event of a nationally or locally notified outbreak (coronavirus).
Ensuring good hygiene practices in the workplace – extra sanitising of contact points and provision of compliant hand sanitising gel.
Training employees on the steps to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
Asking employees to report flu-like symptoms to their line manager or head office and ensuring employees who are unwell to stay at home.
An employer cannot distribute anti-viral prescription-only drugs. These drugs must be prescribed by qualified medical practitioners and dispensed by qualified pharmacists. Employers should seek to request that employees obtain a prescription from their individual GP. Employers will rely on normal retailing pharmacists to provide the drug.
Companies shall ensure that they deal with staff’s fear of coming to work in a pandemic e.g. Coronavirus or Noro-virus outbreak diligently. While companies require to keep genuinely ill personnel away from the workplace, they also need to prevent ‘unauthorised’ or panic absence. Unless companies see particular risks posed in their workplace, they should expect all staff to report to work as normal. Where staff do not come to work, companies ought to think to implement disciplinary procedures or deal with each particular matter with more leniencies on a case by case basis.
For Health and Safety reasons and in the unlikely event that circumstances where real and proven risks to personnel contracting a pandemic flu exist, companies may require an employee to attend their GP and take anti-viral medication. Where an employee refuses to take such medication, the company could exclude them from work on health grounds.
The HR function will need to ensure that disruption to the normal running of the business is minimal even in pandemic conditions and as such should endeavour to identify a source of back-up labour - for example employees on leave or from other sites/premises must ensure that where employees are called in to cover absences, that they abide by The Working Time Regulations 1998 where applicable.
Information about the health of individual employees is personal sensitive data and as such, companies cannot process any details relating to the health of a team member unless they have his or her explicit written consent. All personnel are reminded that they should keep information relating to the health of their colleagues confidential.
In order to ensure that the impact of a pandemic is mitigated, companies should have reviewed and updated their policies and procedures and consider the following actions:
An employee suffering from the effects of a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus should be certified as fit to return to work by a doctor prior returning.
Extending flexible working arrangements to emergency situations – working from home.
Contact HR on whether the right to take leave to care for dependents should be extended to cover this issue and/or whether any special leave should be paid or unpaid.
In good faith, companies should consult with all employees effectively on important changes to working practices. There are two possible changes:
Non-contractual changes in general do not bear any obligation on the business to consult with employees.
For contractual changes and where there is no sufficient flexibility in the terms of the contract to facilitate change, companies should consult with employees in order to obtain their consent to the changes.
Companies should acknowledge that absences may arise not just because staff become infected, but also because family members for whom employees are responsible (most notably children) contract the effects of a specific pathogen. In the case of parents whose children are sick, Companies should decide on a case by case basis.
However, it may transpire that this will not be sufficient for employees whose children fall ill due to the effects of Coronavirus or whose school closes at short notice. In these instances, companies should evaluate each case individually with the aim of trying to accommodate for longer absences of emergency leave in respect of dependents
Employees must always practice good personal hygiene measures – use disposable tissues to control coughs/sneezes, dispose of these appropriately and wash hands before continuing work, eating, and/or drinking etc.
In addition, within the climates of abnormal situations such as in a critical situation due to pandemic, management/supervisors should:
Advise employees to stay at home if they are sick with flu-like symptoms and have good reason to believe, based on the latest HPA guidance, that they may have been exposed to any particular virus e.g. Coronavirus.
Send home any employee who is displaying flu-like signs/symptoms in similar situations to that described above
The number of people in the business premises who may be displaying symptoms is likely to be limited. Therefore, it should not be necessary for employees to wear facemasks routinely when in contact with other persons. If there is an increased likelihood of exposure, fluid-repellent surgical facemasks offer a barrier to minimise contact with the mouth and nose, but do not offer protection against aerosols. For protection against aerosols, an FFP3 mask should be provided and must be used. A filtering face piece (FFP3) device is a mask, which is certified to the PPE Directive. It provides a high level of filtering capability and face fit.
If a vaccine against any pandemic becomes readily available, depending upon the cost of the vaccine, companies may consider offering the vaccine to employees (through a company doctor/medical professional) to try to avoid excessive levels of absenteeism.